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[Fiction] Symmetry - The Burning Times


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Submitted for canon consideration.

There was a deep and severe imbalance in the world. It was called hatred. It flowed though the hearts of men, a toxic river of soul-destroying sludge. It dirtied and blackened the hearts that it touched, turning them into monsters and human horrors. It soiled and spread, a sickness, infecting individuals and turning them into a mindless creature called a mob.

Symmetry had been touched by hatred before, and he had always allowed it to wash past him, a cold wind that didn’t touch his soul. His heart was balanced, and his soul enlightened; hatred and the baser emotions did not touch him. Not so for the creatures that swelled in the crowd around him, with their minds and heart firmly entrenched in darkness. That was why Symmetry was here – to study their self-imposed darkness, and, if he were lucky, to pierce that blackness with the illumination of enlightenment.

The convention hall was filled by humans sworn to destroy the demons that walked the earth. The heat from their bodies and their rage had raised the temperature of the high-ceiling room, making it the hell they so feared. The sound of their rhetoric was a low background growl, the snarling voice of an enraged beast. But perhaps the most disturbing thing to Symmetry was the profitability of hate; vendors spread around the edge of the massive room to sell the paraphernalia of revulsion.

Normally, Symmetry would agree with the concept of righting the terrible imbalances caused by evil, but he did not agree with these people’s definitions of evil. They believed in a touchable demon, of a monster that existed in a quantum frame. Symmetry believed that evil was far less tangible, that it lived only in the thoughts and the actions of all-too-tangible men.

It was beautifully ironic that they could not see the devil that walked so gracefully among him. The members of the Church of Michael the Archangel smiled and nodded at the poised, handsome man that moved through their rally, eager to welcome the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The men shook his hand, and slapped him on the back with large, sweaty hands; the women smiled and nodded and made promises with their eyes of which they were not fully cognizant. They saw a perfect specimen of humanity, not a roaring monster claiming to be an inhuman god.

It was not too long before one of the cowering sheep gained enough courage to approach him. “Welcome,” the red-faced man said, rubbing his right hand with a handkerchief before extending the thick flesh to the smaller Symmetry. “I haven’t seen you around here before.”

“No, I’m not a member,” Symmetry replied with casual cheerfulness, gazing around at the fairgrounds, crowded with hate-filled vessels who claimed to be the sole recipient of God’s love. “I’m a seeker of truth.”

“Ahh! Welcome – the truth is waiting for you,” the round man says, rubbing his apple-red face with the overwhelmed handkerchief. As he smeared the sweat across his brow, he said, “My name is Andrew. And you are?”

“Kevin,” Symmetry smiled, his white teeth pearls compared to the yellowed ivories of the baseline in front of him. “Tell me, what is going on here? I know that it is a Michaelite rally, but what are you rallying about?” Excitement, the same exuberance that always gripped him when he was learning more about life, rang clearly in his voice.

Andrew smiled the smile of a cat with the bird in its mouth. “Well come on, my friend,” the bulbous Andrew exclaimed, holding out a guiding hand to show Symmetry the way through the rumbling crowd swirling around them. They parted to make Andrew’s path, grass parting before the wind.

Symmetry dipped his head to his self-appointed guide in gratitude, and followed Andrew though the wilderness of human hatred. Andrew began his rhetoric as they reached their destination, a back office of the conference center, a haven in the sea of humanity.

“Quite a good crowd out there, isn’t it?” Andrew chuckled, easing his careful way past something that might have been a desk under a pile of papers and books to turn up the air conditioner. The thin vent clinging to the ceiling obediently began to issue cold air with a displeased rumble. “They generate quite a fervor, don’t they?”

“I can see that,” Symmetry agreed with an eager smile. He leaned forward, his face as enthusiastic as any schoolchild’s. “But I don’t understand your fervor. That’s why I came to talk to you.”

“I see you’re an eager seeker of truth,” Andrew enthused, clapping his portly hands together as he dropped into the chair, which groaned a protest as loud and ponderous as Andrew himself. “I love to see young men like you, looking for the true light of God despite the blinding beauty of the demons. And such an-”

“Why do you call them demons?” Symmetry’s question was a dam spilling over, his dark eyes as unrelentingly forceful as flooding waters.

“Well, because they are clearly demon-infested,” Andrew stated, his gravel-rough voice soothing and calm despite being interrupted. “Those who use unholy powers are witches, and God is clear that you should not suffer a witch, Exodus 22:18.”

“Why do you call the powers unholy?” Symmetry asked, voice still resounding with eager curiosity. His head tilts to the side, his eyes as bright as any sparrow’s watching a juicy bug. “The wonderful things they do are incredible, miraculous even.”

“Oh, yes,” Andrew answered, smiling with a teacher’s indulgence at his new star pupil. “They can indeed perform miracles, great and astounding works of near-magical power. They can soar through the heavens, swim the depths of the sea. Did you know that some people have said that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, was a nova?”

Something about the tone of the last question set off a quiet warning bell in Symmetry’s head, so he chose his next words carefully. “I have heard that,” Symmetry replied. “I even discussed it at length with an erupted Buddhist monk a few years ago. In an age where novas are seen to perform acts from the age of legends, it is a logical theory.”

“But what is faith, if it must bow to logic?” Andrew asked with a careful, solicitous nod. “How can we believe, if it is hand-wrapped and given to us without any work or effort from us? That is not faith – that is idolatry. There is only one true being of such power: God. All else is false images and golden calves.” Andrew’s soft voice had risen in fervor, trembling as a candle’s flame in the wind. His face glowed with the all-encompassing power of unshakeable faith and unassailable spiritual fortitude.

Symmetry studied his guide’s words and expression, sadness falling over his heart like a cloak as he realized that his host was deeply entrenched in his unbalanced zeal. “Could God have not given novas their power?” Symmetry asked, his dark eyes clouding over with a little sympathy for Andrew. It was very troubling to the young nova to see such a friendly, generous-hearted person so clearly caught in the cold, soul-deadening grip of hate.

“When you see a so-called nova’s unholy power, when it dances over your skin, then you know with no doubt that you are dealing with something not of this earth,” Andrew stated, nodding firmly, his white shirt collar and dark green tie bobbing in time with his sandy hair. His expression shifted with unnerving suddenness into comprehension and condescension. “Oh, I see. You’ve never actually been in the presence of a demon, have you? It’s not like you see on television at all. Well, come on – let me show you.”

As his host heaved his frame to his feet, Symmetry considered whether he should say anything, or let the man continue to assume that Symmetry had never been close to a nova before. Something about Andrew’s tone or stance still seemed off, and Symmetry merely nodded his silent assent. Floating to his feet, the Asian nova followed his host deeper into the complex.

Symmetry felt no fear as he glided in the wake of his guide, but he still hesitated at the top of the dark stairs gaping downward. It looked like an open mouth, patiently waiting to swallow those unwary enough to enter its maw. But Andrew entered the orifice without harm, and Symmetry’s hesitation only lasted a second before he followed, as smooth as water rolling down the flight of steps.

The long hallway had the cold, sterile feel of a maintenance shaft; red pipes and exposed wires ran across the ceiling as morbid party favors. The gray walls seemed to stretch endlessly, in foul lengths of intestine, waiting to press in and release their digestive toxins. Symmetry released the slightest shudder of repulsion as his shoulder brushed one wall.

Andrew stopped before a door – it was a perfectly ordinary door, but Symmetry was loathe to enter it. The noxious red color of the door, or perhaps the way that Andrew peered up and down the hallway like a child afraid to be caught in the cookie jar, sent up a red flag in Symmetry’s mind that he couldn’t ignore. Symmetry’s stomach coiled with apprehension and trepidation as Andrew forced the key into the lock; the keyhole seemed unwilling to be penetrated by the metal key. Perhaps, Symmetry reflected, it was afraid of the key’s sharp, cruel, teeth.

For all the fear that it had caused, the tranquil scene in the room was not what Symmetry had expected. A knot of people clustered in the middle of the room, talking softly amongst themselves; the rumble of the conversation faded as the door opened, only to resume when they saw who was opening it. Strangely, his presence didn’t seem to cause a stir; his clear association with Andrew granted him acceptance.

“Brother Andrew, I didn’t think you’d be back today,” one woman said, smiling warmly. Her natural charisma flowed off of her as a cloying miasma, and she was attractive, particularly for a baseline.

“My friend Kevin here needs to see it,” Andrew smiled, taking the woman’s hands in his own. As she shifted cold, blue eyes to Symmetry, Andrew added, “We’re holding a discussion on the faith. I trust him, Marjorie.”

“You brought a stranger, here?” The woman seemed displeased, but she said nothing further to Andrew, merely extended her hand in greeting to Symmetry. “Welcome, if you are an honest seeker of truth.”

“I am,” Symmetry answered sincerely, his dark, bottomless eyes meeting her flat, blue-mirror eyes.

“Then see the evil that is deceiving our world. See the demon,” she said, waving at the group, cajoling them to give way. The flock of human sheep began to shift and move to either side obediently.

But Symmetry was distracted by a choked noise coming from the corner; glancing over, he saw the shattered wreck of a young man. The boy – it was hard to see him as an adult, though he must have been in his mid-twenties – was huddled over himself, his hands knotted around themselves. Symmetry’s sharp eyes barely pierced the gloom enough see the ring that he was clenching between his thumbs and index fingers; as Symmetry watched, he pressed the stone into his forehead, his sobs the choked noises of the bereft. A pretty young woman attempted to comfort him, to no avail.

That scene disturbed Symmetry enough that his foreboding returned, and he could not stop his frown as he turned his face toward the open aisle in the mass of flesh before him. And just as he couldn’t stop his frown, he couldn’t stop his wide-eyed look of surprise when he saw what they had revealed to him.

A woman was tied to a chair, the white gag a cruel scar across her face. Her eyes were covered by another white cloth, hiding her eyes from the room. Brown hair tumbled around her face and shoulders, but Symmetry quickly realized that it wasn’t just brown; it was all the colors of a tiger’s eye, dark golden and shimmering brown and all the colors in between, falling in perfect, thick waves that brushed the top of her breasts. The vibrant brown was particularly jarring against the grimy white and tiny blue flowers of the hospital gown she was wearing. Her skin was a darker, tanned complexion, the look of someone who worked the soil under a blazing sun. She seemed to be bathed in a green light, but Symmetry quickly realized that she was the source of that rich, dark green aura hanging around her in a glowing nimbus.

For a second, he was speechless with shock and horror at this sight. And in that moment of surprise, in the moment that he was caught off guard, he understood. Sullen baseline faces surrounded an unbelievable creature of unfathomable glory, and they had to watch her shine while they were consigned to the shadows of the world. This beautiful, glowing being was a terrible, terrible threat, but not because God ordained it so, not really. What made her a threat was their own petty jealousy, their own burning anger that fate or God had granted her such awesome power while leaving them behind in the mud of humanity.

The shock lasted only a second. “What is this?” he asked, his voice going flat as he stared at the bound woman.

“We have a woman, the wife of one of our members, who has become infested by a demon,” the woman said with a cold smile. The rigid curl of her lips made her lipstick a slash of rose-pink across her tight, closed face. The smear of blush on her cheeks floated above the pallor of her skin, making Symmetry think that she would be much more attractive if she didn’t wear the makeup at all. “We will purge her soon.”

“Purge?” Symmetry’s voice lacked the eager inflection that had been infusing his voice; it was gone like fog before the sun. Some of the baselines shifted nervously at the tight tension in his voice as they irrationally longed to soothe his anger and assure him that they would do whatever it took to appease him.

The bound nova hadn’t moved up to this point, but Symmetry could see tiny movements on her body. He didn’t move closer; his eyes didn’t narrow, but he could still see the tiny green vines creeping up her body. Looking down, he saw that they grew from a crack in the concrete floor, curling and seeking their way toward an invisible sun – or perhaps, Symmetry reflected in a distant part of his mind, she was their sun.

During his observation, the vines had crept under the gag, and now she threw her head back while twisting against the gag, letting the vines pull the cloth down. “Help me!” she screamed as soon as her mouth was free, her voice ringing in Symmetry’s soul. And he acted.

His feet and hands moved in concert, his forearm slamming into Andrew’s chest as his leg slipped behind the baseline’s knees. Andrew gave out a pained grunt as he collapsed to the floor, the air rushing out of his lungs as his buttocks and back pounded into the hard concrete. Without a pause, Symmetry moved on to the next target, leaping upward into high spinning kick that knocked another Church member to the ground.

He was a whirling demon through the standing baselines. Three of them were down before the others reacted; most of those left standing scattered as chickens before the fox. One came at him with arms outstretched, trying to grapple him. Symmetry floated under his arm; after the man-ox stumbled past him with pounding feet, Symmetry hooked his foot around the man’s ankle and pushed him off his feet with a timed open-handed thrust into his back.

Movement altered his view of his world, pulling his awareness behind him. Without looking, Symmetry spun into a graceful high kick, floating leaf-like, if leaves could spin as fast as a newly-spun top. Despite his speed, he seemed to drift gracefully in the air, a creature of deadly grace and beauty. And even though he had the ability to rain death down like a raging storm, he instead choose to slap instead of slam, disable instead of decimate, and bruise instead of break. By the time his feet slowed and stopped, landing with a soft thump on the concrete floor, Symmetry was the only one of two standing in a sea of moaning or unconscious men.

The crying man stared at Symmetry, shaking harder than a wet kitten. His shudders eased suddenly and he nodded as comprehension flowed over his expression. “I failed her,” he said, and the woman flinched from his voice, pulling back into herself to flee him. Pallid, watery eyes met Symmetry’s deep brown ones. “I… understand, but I don’t deserve. Would you see that she’s…” Symmetry nodded, sympathy clear on his calm face. Another sob shook the baseline, but the nature of his tears had changed from hopeless loss to the pain of realization. He nodded in return to Symmetry as his hand opened, and two gold rings tumbled to the floor. The echoes from their soft pings were still ringing in the room by the time that he had shuffled out the door.

Stepping with perfect grace over the human waves rising and falling on the floor, Symmetry moved to kneel next to the chair. His fingers are as nimble as the rest of him, and gentler than the men on the floor had felt, as he untied the ropes holding the woman to the chair. The second her hands were free, her shaking fingers were yanking at her blindfold. Symmetry carefully loosened the knot, and suddenly he was trapped in gorgeous brown eyes. They were the color of dark chocolate, with flecks of rich, homemade caramel melted into their soft warm color. It was possible, Symmetry quietly reflected, to become completely lost in those brown eyes, to drown forever in endless, soft, russet depths.

“Are you alright?” he asked her with a voice of smooth comfort.

“No,” she answered, her painfully beautiful face crumbling as she began to cry. Symmetry slid concerned arms around her and held her tight as she moaned, “I can’t go home. I can’t go back. I’ve lost my family… I have nothing left.”

Symmetry picked the lost beauty up and began to walk over the bodies sprawled on the floor. He understood the darkness of jealous hatred, and he had brought enlightenment into that darkness. He had saved a soul foundering in despair, and he would return her to the light. “No,” he told her as he carried her out of the room, “you have your brother and sister novas. And now, you have me.”

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